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Malaria Odor

July 16, 2014

The malaria parasite may make its host extra-appetizing to mosquitoes, just when the contagion risk is highest.




(Susanne Bard)

The malaria parasite’s smell strategy.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

People infected with the malaria parasite may attract even more of the mosquitoes that spread it – especially when it’s most contagious. This according to Penn State University ecologist Mark Mescher and his colleagues. Building on evidence from human cases, Mescher’s team took a close look at mice, before and after infection. They found that the mice, once infected, gave off a scent that was higher in several odor chemicals and more attractive to mosquitoes.

MARK MESCHER (Penn State University):

But particularly during a specific stage of infection, where the malaria gametocytes – the transmissible stage of the parasite  – were still present in high levels in the infected mice.

The findings may lead to new strategies for controlling malaria: for example, by using the odors as bait for mosquito traps, or by using the odors to diagnose asymptomatic infections in humans.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.